Aunt Bessie Joins (An Isle of Man Cozy Mystery Book 10) (9 page)

“That’s certainly one possibility.
I’m sure the inspector is doing
everything he can to investigate just that.”

“If you can get back to help out later, I’d
be ever so grateful,” Laura changed the subject.
“I’m meant to be helping Henry with
setting up the auction as well.”

“I thought the committee was supposed to be
helping with that,” Bessie said.

“Henry’s moving furniture and rearranging
the room,” Laura told her.
you and the committee can come in and set things up.”

“Perhaps I should go and see how he’s
getting on.
I hope he isn’t
The committee meeting has
been rescheduled for this afternoon, and we won’t be ready to do anything in
there until after that.”

Bessie took a shortcut up to the large room
where Henry was hard at work.
was pleased to see that two young men were doing all of the heavy lifting under
Henry’s direction, rather than Henry trying to move furniture by

“Ah, Bessie, just in time for a tea break,”
he greeted her.
“Joe, pop the
kettle on, will you?”

One of the men filled the kettle and
switched it on before pulling out his mobile.
The other man was already talking to
someone on his.

“How are you?” Bessie asked Henry as the man
found mugs and dumped biscuits onto a plate.

“I’m good,” he replied.
“I was worried about Laura, because that
Mr. Hart upset her, but she’s okay now.”

“I think we’ll all feel better when the
police arrest someone,” Bessie said.

“I bet whoever did it is long gone,” Henry
told her.
“They will have come over
and killed him and then headed back where they came from.
will never find them.”

“I hope they do find him, or her, but I’d be
happy if the killer turned out to be someone from across.
I’d hate to think that anyone from ‘Christmas
at the Castle’ could be involved.”

She enjoyed tea and biscuits, chatting with
Henry and the two young workers.
Bessie found that spending time with young people was
and she always felt as if she’d learned
something from them as well.
they told her all about a new movie that was just out.
As she headed back down to look for the
others on her unwritten list, Bessie was mentally shaking her head at what
Hollywood seemed to think was entertaining these days.

Harriet was in her room, rearranging cuddly
“Natasha suggested that I try
sorting them in some way,” she told Bessie.
I’m trying to arrange them by size, but
only very approximately.”

“I like what you’ve done so far,” Bessie
told her.
“I hope you’re happy with
Natasha’s changes?”

“Oh, yes, she’s so much nicer and easier to
work with than Mr. Hart was,” Harriet replied.

“And you aren’t too upset about his untimely

Harriet shrugged.
“I barely knew the man, and what I knew
about him, I didn’t much like,” she said.
“I’m sorry he was killed, but if he’d simply decided to leave, I would
have been happy to see him go.”

“Do you have any idea who killed him?”

“If it wasn’t someone from across, then the
only suggestion I have is Michael,” Harriet replied.
“He might have been in a lot of trouble
if Mr. Hart had followed through on his threat and pressed charges after that

“We were all witnesses that Mr. Hart struck
Michael first.”

“But when you’re looking for a new job,
having police charges brought against you won’t help.”

“Michael is looking for a new job?”

“Unlike the rest of us, working for
non-profits is Michael’s career.
The best and fastest way to get ahead in that business is to switch jobs
I’ve no doubt Michael
started looking for his next job as soon as he accepted the one here.
And I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s
disappointed in the position here, as well.
I’m sure he thought he’d be able to
bring in more staff once he got started, but even with his success so far, the
charity simply isn’t big enough to warrant hiring on more people.
He seems like the type that would resent
having to type his own letters, though.”

“It’s a long way from that to murder,”
Bessie said.

“I don’t know anything about how Mr. Hart
died, but I think we all know that Michael has a temper.
If he met up with Mr. Hart later that
day and they argued, well, I can see Michael hitting him again.”

Bessie frowned.
“You could be right,” she said
She didn’t exactly
like Michael Beach, but he’d worked hard on his part of “Christmas at the
She’d much prefer it if
the killer was a total stranger.

With Harriet’s words replaying in the mind,
Bessie headed towards the front of the building.
She still hadn’t found Margaret
This time, when Bessie
walked into her room, Margaret was there.

“Just getting the Christmas card table
sorted,” she told Bessie.

“It’s just the thing this room needed,”
Bessie replied.

“I’m so glad that Marjorie suggested it and
MNH offered to fund it.
I think
it’s just the right touch.”

“But how are you?” Bessie asked.

“I’m keeping busy so I don’t think about
that poor young man, if that’s what you mean.”

“We don’t have to talk about it,” Bessie
assured her.
“I just wanted to
check on everyone, that’s all.”

“I know the nice policeman said it wasn’t,
but I still think he must have simply met with an unfortunate accident,”
Margaret said.
“Such a dangerous
world we live in, really.
I feel
sorry for his family, losing him this close to Christmas.”

“I haven’t heard anything about his family,”
Bessie said.
“Of course he must
have had someone who’ll miss him.”

“I wouldn’t count on it,” Natasha drawled
from the doorway.
“He lost both of
his parents when he was quite young and he and his older brother had a falling
out about twenty years ago and never spoke again.
He was currently between women, as well,
and believe me, none of his exes will miss him.”

“You knew him better than I
,” Bessie said, studying the young woman who was
framed in the doorway.

“He was a competitor,” she said with a
“I keep track of all of my

“He said something about you stealing
customers,” Bessie recalled.

Natasha flushed.
“He liked to throw that accusation
around whenever he had a chance,” she replied.
“I think, over the years, he managed to
accuse just about every other designer out there of stealing clients from
The simple fact was that a lot
of his customers chose to switch designers, often in the middle of projects
with him, because they simply didn’t like what he was doing.
Ironically, he was the one who stole
clients now and then.
He even sent
some design ideas to Mary, suggesting that he might be a better choice for

“Do you have any idea who might have killed
him?” Bessie asked.

“So many possibilities,” the woman
“An ex-girlfriend whom he
treated badly, another designer who had clients stolen from him, a former
customer who felt that he ruined his or her home.
The list is endless.”

“It appears the police have a big job to do,
then,” Bessie said.

“I’m much happier with my job,” Natasha
“I’m thrilled with how
everything is coming together here, and Mary seems to like my ideas for
as well.”

Before Bessie could reply, Carolyn
rushed into the room.
“Ah, Bessie, there you are.
You’re just the person I wanted to see.”

Bessie looked at the woman in surprise.
Carolyn’s hair was a tangled mess, her
skirt didn’t match her jumper and she looked as if she’d been crying.

“What’s wrong?” Bessie asked.

Carolyn looked around the room and shook her
She took Bessie’s arm and
pulled her through the castle, ignoring everyone they passed.
When the pair finally reached an empty
room, Carolyn stopped.
She pressed
her hand to her head.

“Carolyn, what’s wrong?” Bessie asked,
staring into the other woman’s eyes.

“You’ve been involved in murder
investigations before,” Carolyn said.
“You’ll know what to do.”

“What to do about what?”

“I think my husband killed Christo,” Carolyn

Chapter Five

For a moment, Bessie could only stare at the
“Pardon?” she said
eventually, certain that she must have misheard.

“I think Richard killed Christo,” Carolyn
“What can I do?
I can’t tell the police.
I don’t want Richard to go to prison.
I need him.”

Bessie shook her head.
“Why do you think Richard killed Mr.
Hart?” Bessie asked.

“He took him to the hotel,” Carolyn
“But it was hours before
he came home.
When I asked him what
he was doing for all that time, he wouldn’t answer me.”

“But what possible motive did he have?
I didn’t think he even knew Mr. Hart.”

“He was, well, he thought, that is, he
didn’t like my friendship with Christo,” Carolyn said, flushing.
She turned and walked a step away from
“Richard thought I might be
having an affair with Christo,” she said quietly.

“But you weren’t,” Bessie said, trying to
make it sound more like a statement than a question.

Carolyn glanced over at her and turned a
darker shade of red.
“Christo liked
his women young,” she said.
wasn’t interested in me.”

From the bitterness in the woman’s tone,
Bessie had to assume that Carolyn had made an offer that Christopher Hart had
turned down.
Perhaps that was what
the fight that got him kicked out of Carolyn’s home was about.

“I’ve only met Richard once or twice,”
Bessie said.
“He doesn’t seem like
the violent type.”
Besides the fact that he’s in his late sixties, Bessie thought, but
didn’t add.

“He has a terrible temper,” Carolyn replied.

“You should talk to Inspector
,” Bessie told her.

“Oh, I couldn’t possibly.
What if Richard did kill Christo?”

“You don’t want him to go to prison?”

“Of course not,” Carolyn said.
“All the money is his, after all.
Knowing him, he’d spend a fortune on his
defense and then go off to prison and leave me with nothing.”

Bessie found herself staring at the woman
“You think he killed
someone, but you don’t want the police to know,” she said slowly.

“Exactly; you’ve been involved in lots of
murder investigations.
How can I
divert suspicion onto other people?
Who else had a motive?
must know.”

“I haven’t the slightest idea who might be a
I can assure you, though,
that Inspector
will be taking a good look at
you and your husband, whether you tell him about your suspicions or not.”

“Richard will have to go away,” Carolyn said.
“Perhaps he should go and visit his
brother in California for a while.
The police can’t question him if he’s in America.”

“They might not let him go,” Bessie told
“I don’t think they’ll want
anyone involved in the case travelling right now.”

“They can’t stop him,” Carolyn said
“He’s been thinking about
going to visit his brother for months.”

“I think you’ll find that they can stop
him,” Bessie told her.

“You aren’t any help at all,” Carolyn

“What did you and Mr. Hart fight about the
night he died?” Bessie asked.

“Christo and I didn’t fight,” Carolyn
“We never fought.
We were the very closest of friends.”

“So why did he suddenly move to a hotel?”

“Christo and Richard had a difference of
opinion on something,” Carolyn muttered.

“Has he told the police that?”

“I don’t know what Richard has told the
police,” Carolyn said with a sigh.
“We aren’t, that is, I haven’t really seen him since, well, since that
Richard left to take
Christo to the hotel.
He didn’t get
home until quite late.
I was
already in bed.
Of course, he had
to go to work the next morning, and we’ve both been quite busy.
We simply haven’t had time to talk.”

“But you told the police about the argument.”

“Of course not.
That would only give them the idea that
Richard had some sort of motive for killing Christo.”

Bessie sighed.
“If you don’t want the police to know
things, you shouldn’t be telling me,” she told the woman.
“I expect I’ll be questioned again and
I’ll have to tell Inspector
what you’ve told

Carolyn shrugged.
“I thought you’d be like that,” she
“But I can just deny
I have an advocate on
speed dial.
He’ll sort it all out.”

“If I were you, I’d tell the police
everything,” Bessie said.

“Too much risk.
I can’t have Richard locked up.
He needs to be out here, earning money.”

“And you’re prepared to live with a
murderer, for the sake of the money?” Bessie asked.

“You make it sound so dramatic when you put
it that way,” Carolyn complained.

“You’re the one who said you think he did
it,” Bessie pointed out.

“Well, maybe he didn’t,”
“Maybe it was
He’d already punched
Maybe he found Christo in
Douglas and finished the job.”

“Several people here seem to think that
someone followed Mr. Hart from across,” Bessie said.
“Maybe Mr. Hart’s death had nothing to
do with anyone on the island at all.”

“That’s probably it,” Carolyn said.
“I did my best to let people know he was
It was all meant to be good
publicity for our event.
I do hope
I didn’t accidently let his killer know where to find him.
Oh, goodness, his death could have been
my fault.”

Bessie had had enough of the other woman’s
“Why don’t we leave the
investigation up to the police, and we can focus on getting the castle ready
for Friday?” she suggested.
have the auction to set up and I’m sure we need to do some finishing touches
around the place.”

“And I still have to set up my tribute
room,” Carolyn said.
“Although I
think my staff has that well in hand.
Anyway, it’s time for the committee meeting.
We really must get going.”

She headed off towards the banquet room,
leaving Bessie shaking her head behind her.
I’ve been here all day, Bessie thought
as she followed Carolyn.
We’ve been
waiting for you.

The committee meeting didn’t take long.
They went over everything that still
needed to be finished and then split into groups to get to work.
No one mentioned Christopher Hart or the
murder investigation.
Bessie spent
an hour helping Laura with tickets and by five o’clock everything was just
about finished.
The only thing left
to do was add some fresh flowers in some of the rooms.
Those were due to be delivered on Friday

“I dare say we can take tomorrow off,” Mark
told Bessie as he drove her home.
“All of the last-minute jobs can’t be done until Friday, so there’s no
reason for anyone to even be at the castle tomorrow.”

“I can’t believe, after all the hard work,
that we’re done a day early,” Bessie replied.
“There were times when I didn’t think
we’d ever finish.”

“I was worried, when Mr. Hart first arrived
and wanted to change everything, that we were in trouble,” Mark confided.
“Natasha’s changes have been much more

“And she’s done wonderful things,” Bessie
“I thought it all looked
beautiful anyway, but it looks even better now.”

Mark dropped Bessie at home.
They agreed that he’d collect her on
Friday morning.
She planned to
spend the day at the castle, bringing her formal wear for the evening grand
opening with her.

“I’ll ring you if anything comes up between
now and then, otherwise I’ll see you on Friday,” Mark told her.

With an unexpectedly free day to fill,
Bessie fixed herself a light evening meal while she tried to decide what to do
with her Thursday.
She missed
spending time with her friends in
, but they
would all be at work during the day.
She was just about to ring to book a taxi to take her to Ramsey the next
day when the phone rang.


“Ah, Bessie, it’s Pete
I was hoping I might be able to come to
see you tomorrow morning before you head down to

“I’m not going to
We’re all ready for
Friday, and Mark has given us all the day off.”

“In that case, can I buy you

“Why don’t you come here?” Bessie
“I can do a full English
I haven’t done that in

After the inspector agreed, Bessie checked
her refrigerator.
She hadn’t done a
proper grocery shop in weeks, because she’d been so busy going back and forth
Without a trip to the shops, she’d never be able to fix breakfast the
next day.

Bessie quickly made a list of what she
needed and then headed out the door.
She walked up the hill to the small shop at the top.
Fully expecting the disagreeable young
woman whose father owned the shop to be behind the till, she forced a smile on
her face before she walked in.

Are you working here again?” she asked, surprised to find her old
friend, Anne Caine, stocking shelves.

“Would you believe the owner’s daughter has
run off to
with some lad she met at
Apparently, they met in the
beer tent and stayed in touch after he went home.
I gather she and her dad had a
disagreement about something and off she went,” Anne told her.

Bessie shook her head.
“Good luck to her,” she said.
“I hope she’s happy there.
She always seemed miserable here.”

“Oh, aye,” Anne laughed.
“She never made a secret of that, did
Her father is furious, of
course, but she’s over eighteen and can make her own mistakes.”

“Are you back for good, then?” Bessie asked.

“Oh, I don’t know,”
said, waving a hand.
“I don’t have
to work, which is the ultimate luxury.
But I really miss working, as well.
I told the owner that I’ll cover until the
new year
and then we’ll have to talk.
shop is closed from Christmas Eve until the second of January, anyway, so it
isn’t much of a commitment.”

Bessie found what she needed for the
breakfast she’d promised Pete.
Andy coming home for Christmas?” she asked as Anne rang up her items.

“Only for a few days,” Anne replied.
“He’s going to be here for Christmas Eve
and then he’s going back on Boxing Day.
He’s been invited to be the resident chef at some fancy country house
from Boxing Day until the
new year

“That should be good experience for him,”
Bessie said.

“Yes, and his friend, Sue, is going as
She’s going to be his
assistant chef for the week.
think that’s the main reason he took the job.”

Bessie chuckled.
“They seemed well-suited when I met her
at my Thanksgiving dinner.”

“They’re perfect for each other,” Anne
“I really liked her and I
know Andy thinks she’s wonderful.
He just has to persuade her to see him as more than just a friend.”

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